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Lymphedema and acupuncture

(http://3 NULL.bp NULL.blogspot NULL.com/_E86K6-isvvA/R4kQ4SaarKI/AAAAAAAAADk/-zGQhML6oOE/s1600-h/acupuncture NULL.jpg)After the story I mentioned in my last post (http://biglegwoman NULL.blogspot NULL.com/2008/01/lymphedema-in-every-mailbox NULL.html) was published, Mary, my therapist, reported getting a phone call from a woman who very kindly explained that we were doing it all wrong, that she’d had acupuncture (http://organizedwisdom NULL.com/Acupuncture) for her lymphedema that cured it.

Now, in general I think alternative therapies are interesting, and I’m very open to exploring them. But this sounds horrifyingly wrong to me. As I understand it, ANY puncture wound, accidental or deliberate, in a lymphedemous area can cause leakage of lymphorrhea (the fluid that pools up in a lymphedemous leg, arm or other body part). This does two things: It opens a pathway for infection to enter the affected area (and lymphedema means your body is already limited at fighting infections in that area). The lymphorrhea itself is also caustic and damages the skin, leaving even more pathways for infection and causing ugly scarring.

OK, I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. So I won’t tell you not to have acupuncture, and if you’ve had it and had a good experience, I wish you all the best. If you haven’t, and are thinking about it, let me refer you to these pages:

  • Acupuncture and Lymphema (http://www NULL.lymphnotes NULL.com/article NULL.php/id/23/) (LymphNotes.com):
    Acupuncture has not been documented as an effective treatment for lymphedema and it is not recommended for this purpose.

  • Lymphedema Acupuncture Treatment (http://www NULL.lymphedemapeople NULL.com/thesite/lymphedema_acupuncture_treatment NULL.htm) (Lymphedemapeople.com)
  • Clinical practice guidelines for the care and treatment of breast cancer: 11. Lymphedema (http://www NULL.pubmedcentral NULL.nih NULL.gov/articlerender NULL.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=80678) (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
    Whenever possible patients should avoid medical procedures such as vaccination, blood drawing, intravenous access, blood pressure monitoring, acupuncture, venography and lymphangiography in the affected arm.

I have several friends who’ve found acupuncture beneficial for a variety of ailments, and I even know one or two acupuncturists personally. With all due respect, though, I will not choose this therapy for myself, and I hope that any lipedema or lymphedema patient considering it will do careful research and consult knowledgeable medical professionals before going ahead with it.

(Photo: hradcanska (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/hradcanska/))

7 Comments

  1. bionic

    hope i found the right way to get to you find your site great but i need to stop crying and focus on getting better even the accu punture doesn’t sound so bad my right leg has been so week since i was on life supprt20005 now i fell and broke my ankle toe and foot on left side and have more pain in right and is huge and dr said maybe a bblood clot!!!! NOPE !!! OK lets try a new diet!!! Help if you can!!!!
    marsh

    Posted on 13-Jan-08 at 7:07 pm | Permalink
  2. fiveminds

    Hi Jane, I just wrote an article about this very topic. I love synchronicity. While I wouldn’t try to convince anyone to have acupuncture if they aren’t inclined, I thought you’d want to know that acupuncture needles don’t have to be inserted in the area of the lymphedema to be effective. There are different treatment strategies that can be used safely.
    Julie.

    Posted on 13-Jan-08 at 9:42 pm | Permalink
  3. Jane

    bionic, you need to be seen by a doctor who understands what lymphedema is and can tell you whether or not you have it. Please keep trying — mobility is important.

    Posted on 14-Jan-08 at 12:59 am | Permalink
  4. bionic

    jane thanks for responding backso quickly at least i know ican do alittle on this computer!!!!???? I would so like to converse with you or any one else that might be able to help my Emai is gbionicele@aol.com (gbionicele null@null aol NULL.com) i need to know dr.s or chiros or people who care wold rath not air everything over the sight and bore you to death thank you so much i live in utah your new best friend marsh OH did you know whar bionic stands for ????believe it or not i care
    LOve ya marsh

    Posted on 14-Jan-08 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  5. Anonymous

    Hello
    I have lymphodema, it started in both lower legs and although i wear my stockings it has spread into my thighs.I have a number of other health issues going on and have just been advised to see an accuptuncturist, not to needle my legs but to see if by needling other parts of my body will help some of my issues going on. Can anyone advise me whether accupuncture is ok on the body, everywhere excpet the affected limbs?
    If you could help. please email me heidirobinson16@hotmail.com (heidirobinson16 null@null hotmail NULL.com)
    many thanks
    heidi

    Posted on 19-Aug-10 at 5:01 pm | Permalink
  6. Amy Hazard

    Hi there. I am an acupuncturist in California. Acupuncture is safe for lymphedema even on the effected limb. It has been shown to be safe and effective in several scientific studies. Heres a link to one of the studies: http://www.asco.org/ascov2/Meetings/Abstracts?&vmview=abst_detail_view&confID=70&abstractID=40293 (http://www NULL.asco NULL.org/ascov2/Meetings/Abstracts?&vmview=abst_detail_view&confID=70&abstractID=40293)
    I looked at the websites you referred to in your comment. The websites make unsubstantiated statements. There is no scientific proof at all that acupuncture is unsafe or contraindicated. Our methods of needle insertion use a clean needle technique and we are trained in where and how to put them in so as not to cause harm. Thank you for hearing me out!
    Sincerely,
    Amy Hazard, LAc

    Posted on 02-Aug-11 at 10:17 pm | Permalink
  7. Carol

    Hi,
    I just wanted to let all of you know that I have been receiving accupuncture treatment for lymphedema for about a year. I have it in both legs. Before these treatments I had to wear compression stockings daily, and wrap my legs nightly. For the past 6 months I have done neither. I attributed this major improvement to accupuncture. Right now I am going through a downward trend and need to use my leg pumps nightly. I have also been using leg wraps and stockings for the past 2 days. It is important to state that I am on antibiotics for an unrelated illness, and that will aggravate my lymphedema. Bottom line…I do feel that accupuncture does help to manage this dreaded condition…after all it got me through the whole summer without those horrible compression stockings. I plan to wear the stockings during the winter, and hope that I will be as fortunate next summer.

    Posted on 18-Nov-12 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

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